Headaches. Some of us get them often. We blame the change in weather, not getting in our morning coffee or even staring at the computer for too long. And then there are the migraines. We often talk about headaches calling them names like pressure, tension, and stress headaches but what’s what? We were interested in getting a better understanding on headaches.

We checked in with Toronto chiropractor and registered acupuncturist, Dr. Nekessa Remy to learn more and what we can do about them.

Tell us about the different kind of common headaches we get, triggers, and how to identify them?

Dr. Remy: The most common type of headache is known as a tension headache. Those are the headaches that feel like a vice grip around the head. They are often located in the temporal region of the head and are mild to moderate in intensity. These headaches can be triggered by stress, dehydration, increased screen time, lack of sleep etc.

Migraines are another common headache. Unlike tension headaches these headaches occur on only one side of head and are much more intense in nature. They are accompanied by either nausea or sensivity to light and/or noise. These headaches will feel pulsating in quality and are brought on by various triggers. Common triggers include foods like chocolate, cheese, or wine. Weather fluctuation including changes in barometric pressure can also trigger migraines.

Other common types of headaches include sinus headaches which are caused by sinus infections leading to increased pressure in the sinuses. The sinuses are cavities located in the forehead and cheekbone region. These headaches will be associated with a fever and/or nasal congestion. Cervicogenic headaches are headaches stemming from the neck. These headaches are gaining popularity as we spend more time bent over staring at our laptops or cellphones. The strain on the neck from improper posture causes the muscles of the neck to stiffen which can refer pain into the head. These headaches will start at the back of the head and travel forward, they can also be aggravated by neck movements.

Are there some headaches that we should pay more attention to and alert our healthcare professionals?

Dr. Remy: Absolutely! Any headache that occurs after a trauma should be assessed by a health professional. Head trauma, like concussions, can result in headaches and have long lasting effects if not identified immediately. If you suffer from a headache that lasts longer than 24 hours, seek an assessment from a health care provider like a licensed chiropractor, acupuncturist or physiotherapist.

What can we do to alleviate the headaches if we don’t want to take OTC medication?

Dr. Remy: There are many alternatives to the treatment of headaches.
• Breathing techniques and meditation can be helpful way to deal with stress and relieve tension headaches.
• Essential oils like peppermint and lavender can be helpful in managing headaches.
• Ice. There have been some studies to suggest that placing ice around the head can help to reduce the intensity of headaches
• Humidifiers and neti pots are natural alternatives to antibiotics for sinus headaches
• Neck Stretches and massage therapy are tools to help manage neck stiffness and tension which can alleviate cervicogenic headaches

Tying into what you do, how does it work to address headaches?

Dr. Remy: Acupuncture is a great tool, that has been found to help people cope with various headaches. It can be used to increase circulation, which can help with clogged sinuses and remove the pressure of sinus headaches as well as calm the intensity of migraine headaches. Furthermore, acupuncture helps to release muscle tension and stiffness which makes it a useful treatment for cervicogenic headaches. Research has also proven acupuncture an effective therapy for stress management and insomnia which can be helpful in the management of tension headaches.

Can we be proactive in preventing them?

Dr. Remy: The first thing is you want to try to identify the type of headache you may be suffering from. If it’s a tension headache, you want to ensure you are getting enough sleep, drinking enough water and using stress management techniques to avoid these headaches from starting. Migraines can have specific triggers. Using a headache diary is great way to determine what your triggers may be. Once identified, try to avoid them accordingly. If you do frequently get sinus headaches, ensure you regular diet and exercise to boost your immune system.

As for cervicogenic headaches, take a look at your workspace. Has it been ergonomically assessed?

Dr. Remy: Considering how much time we spend sitting at our desks and staring at a computer, our necks are under constant strain. Better ergonomics can help to reduce the amount of load being placed on our spines.

When should we seek professional help?

Dr. Remy: If you are experiencing a headache that can be described as the worse pain you have ever felt, you should seek emergency care immediately. Also, if you are suffering from severe nausea, difficulty speaking or walking along with the headache, head to the hospital for treatment.

Dr. Nekessa S. Remy is a leading health & wellness professional and expert with a passion for sports injury prevention and enabling others to be their own health champions.  Her philosophy stems from her believe that healthy living is a RIGHT and not a privilege.
Dr. Remy’s passion for health and rehabilitation lead her to earning an Honors Degree in Kinesiology from the University of Western Ontario followed by a Doctorate of Chiropractic from the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College. She also holds certificates in Medical Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Acupuncture. With 15 years experience in the rehabilitation field Dr. Remy has developed an approach to injury management that is based on current research and measurable patient outcomes.

Thank you for taking the time to chat with us!